I saved working on the final cuts of pork — the saddles and racks — for last, for two reasons: they didn’t require multi-day preparation, and serious precision butchering was involved.
I started with the two saddles — the cuts between the racks and the legs — which had to be boned and trimmed to leave the loins and tenderloins attached to the skin. The instructions in Under Pressure were not as clear as I would have preferred, in fact, they seemed predicated on working with pre-boned saddles. That explains this photo:
I worked very carefully to remove the bone and silverskin while leaving the loins and outer skin intact. After an hour’s worth of pork surgery, I declared victory with two trimmed saddles. I scored the interior of the small flaps below the loins in a crosshatch pattern in preparation for applying transglutaminase, aka “meat glue.” I had a kilo of the stuff, the smallest commercially available amount.
I spooned some transglue into a fine meshed strainer and sprinkled it over the meat, just as if I was dusting a cake with confectioner’s sugar.
I rolled up the saddles and tied them with twine every three-quarters of an inch,
resulting in the rolls you see in the opening photo. I refrigerated them for six hours, enough time to let the transglutaminase bond to the meat.
While the saddles bonded, I worked on the racks, and discovered that not only are piglets asymmetrical, but that the butchering was asymmetrical as well. The recipe calls for the racks to be cut into double chops with a single bone in the center. I would be serving ten guests, so I needed two racks with eleven bones each to make the correct chops. (Work it out: five chops per rack = five bones, each flanked by a bone to be removed, plus one more at the far end: 5 + 5+ 1 = 11) One of my racks had eleven bones, but the other had only ten. In addition, the meat in each rack was not the same size.
I made an executive decision to cut the chops double but between every second bone, which would give me the ten chops I needed. Having worked that out, I made a sincere effort to understand the directions for tying the racks — instructions that desperately require at least one illustration — and chose to adhere to the spirit of the procedure, which was to keep the shape of the chops as round as possible.
Here’s what I wound up with:
By the time I had figured out the rack tying, it was time to season them and prepare them for cooking along with the saddles.
I placed the saddles and racks in separate bags, adding a thyme sprig, garlic clove, and ten grams of olive oil to each.
I cooked the loins and racks in a 60.5 °C water bath for twenty minutes, removed and rested them for five minutes, then left them in the bags at room temperature until final plating preparation.
My last bit of advance preparation was the construction of the potato “mille-feuille.” I peeled five large russet potatoes and sliced them lengthwise on a mandoline.
I brushed the bottom of a loaf pan with clarified butter, then layered potatoes in the pan, brushing each layer with more butter, and seasoning every other layer with salt and pepper.
When the pan was full, I baked it in a 350 °F oven for an hour.
I removed the pan from the oven, covered the top with parchment paper, rested an identical loaf pan on top of the paper, and then weighted everything down with bricks.
The potatoes fit in the last available bit of space in the fridge, which now was filled with pork belly, rutabaga mostarda, pork confit, cauliflower panna cotta, asparagus, and various dessert and garnish bits.
The next day, the day of the dinner, would be the final push to pull the dish together, which would test my timing skills as well as my sanity.
Baby pork saddles and racks: Savenor’s